by T.E. Klunzinger
This unexpected gothic thriller starts out as a seeming western (great ranch set by Bob Fernholz) with all sorts of shop talk about breaking horses but quickly morphs into something decidedly different. The somewhat simple-minded Dwight (Joey Wojda) ambles up to the house that Tyrus (Michael Boxleitner, looking like he stepped out of a sepia photograph) kind of shares with his sister Mary (Dakota Kruse), seeking advice about his new horse. And they talk about horses. Except…
We never really see the surprisingly well-read Mary because she’s locked in a cave/cage, barking out taunts and orders to anyone who comes near. At first we think she’s a prisoner, cruelly shut away by her belligerent brother, and Dwight is sympathetic to her plight. But is she really the victim? And who’s running things on this ranch, anyway?
Boxleitner is excellent as Tyrus, who first seems a villain but who is actually something less than that. Wojda effectively dithers as Dewey, whipsawed by Mary to do her bidding but ultimately unable to do anything. And using only her twangy voice, Kruse creates a genuinely scary character, made even more so because we have to imagine how awful she really looks.
When there are only three characters, one of whom you never see, it can be a challenge to keep the dramatic tension high, but director Mary Matzke –in her last production before retiring – keeps the pacing as taut as the rope on a stallion, making you wonder how it’s all going to play out.
(This is not to be confused with the 1964 Bette Davis film of the same name, although it’s kind of a spiritual cousin to her “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.”)
“Dead Ringer” plays tonight (Saturday) and next Friday/Saturday at 8:00 p.m. in the LCC Black Box Theater, best reached via the Grand Avenue entrance, on the south end of the Gannon Building.